But he insisted Wednesday that he was actually wearing a mask during his visit to Arizona – but not when the cameras were around.
"I had a mask on for a while," Trump said in the Oval Office Wednesday. "I had it on the back – backstage. But they said you don't need it, so I don't need it. And by the way, if you noticed, no one else had it on the group that was in the group."
There is SO much going on in that quote.
The insistence that he was wearing a mask – you just didn't see it! And it's not his fault! (According to a spokesman for Honeywell, Trump was allowed not to wear a mask.)
But the really telling part of the quote is Trump's use of "backstage" to describe where he wore a mask. As in, when he walked on stage – meaning, in this context, where there were TV cameras rolling and photographers taking his picture – he didn't have the mask.
Which raises a simple question: Why? After all, if he had one at some point, why not just leave it as a way to model the right behavior for the audience?
I have answers!
Remember that Trump is looking at his entire presidency through the lens of television – mostly reality TV and cable news. He is very, very focused on how he is portrayed and perceived. And he wants the image that the audience gets of him to be a strong and fearless leader.
Which in his mind does not include masks when on stage.
So, wearing a mask is fine, in Trump's mind, when you're on stage. But that's not the kind of thing he does when people, you know, actually watch.
The problem? We are entering a period – with several states reopening even if the coronavirus continues to infect 30,000+ people a day nationally – where being masked in public settings may be our best defense against a new wave of the virus.
But Trump is not coming to that. Why? For he will not.